Carrie Miller/Health Sciences Technology

If we think back to when we first became interested in our careers, fields of study or occupations, we can probably think of at least one person in our lives, while we were at an early age, who became a real guiding force as to our path in life. This is true for Carrie Miller, the Health Sciences Technology instructor at River Bend Career and Technical Center, just as it is for many of us.

Carrie remembers stories from her aunt, who is still a labor and delivery nurse, about how satisfying her career has been and how working in fields that “help other people” really make a difference in one’s own life. When Carrie entered high school, she already knew that, somehow, her future would involve helping others, wherever she was to go. In talking with her guidance counselor in the spring of her junior year at Oxbow High School, she became really interested in a new course opening in the following school year, at River Bend Career and Technical Center, called “Health Sciences Technology”!

Carrie became one of the first students in the new program that she is now teaching, and feels that her experience in the program was really a catalyst to help her move on in her career. In her one year in the program, it was the opportunities she was able to experience in “the field” that stand out the most for her. In one short year, she spent time with the Upper Valley Ambulance group, at the Grafton County Nursing Home, the Glencliff Home, and she became a mentor for a 6th grader at the Bradford Elementary School.

After graduation from Oxbow High School, she attended Castleton State College (now called Castleton University) in the direction of becoming a social worker. She took all of her pre-requisite classes, as well as anatomy and physiology during that year, and she began to realize she really wanted to find a more “hands-on” career. To accomplish this goal, she took more prerequisite courses through the Community College of Vermont (CCV), and then transferred to River Valley Community College (RVCC) in Claremont, NH in the Respiratory Therapy Program. Her interest in this field had grown from her brother’s asthma, and a distant cousin with Cystic Fibrosis. In May 2015, she graduated with her Associate Degree in Respiratory Therapy, and started work at Dartmouth-Hitchcock (DHMC) in June. Her work in patient respiratory care at DHMC had actually started before she graduated from RVCC, because she had been on placement at the hospital through her college program. Her work at DHMC involved working with patients in the intensive care unit, emergency room and with Cystic Fibrosis patients.

The experience she gained at DHMC and further study allowed Carrie to earn the credential of an Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation Specialists (ECMO), which allowed her to work with a more ailing population, working with a team of physicians and specialists, and helping to develop plans for stabilizing patients for the future. She continued in this capacity until July 2018, when her son was born. The time at home with her baby was a wonderful experience, and allowed her to return to her patients with more compassion and understanding than ever. Through this time, she began to realize that she really loved teaching her patients, helping them to take better care of themselves, and her overall feeling of compassion for their situations.

Feeling, as she does, about the magic of teaching, compassion for others, and her desire to help others, it is no wonder she called River Bend Career and Technical Center last June to inquire about the vacancy in the Health Sciences Technology Program. After reviewing her record and transcripts with the State of Vermont, she was found eligible for the position and enrolled in a teaching program through Vermont Technical College that works to help technical education teachers earn their Vermont Teaching License. Needless to say, she is thrilled to be teaching in the same program where she was a student during her high school career!

She cares deeply for all of her students, and after five months with the classes, she is very pleased with how well the course is preparing her students for the future. Each student has the opportunity to graduate with nine college credits from the program in the areas of Introduction to Health Science; Human Biology; and Legal and Ethical Issues in Health Careers. In addition, students can earn their Licensed Nursing Assistant (LNA) certification, and certification in the field of Phlebotomy. The training sites that Carrie was familiar with as a student still exist, and there have been some additions. Students now have opportunities to work and “shadow” with the Oxbow Veterinary Clinic, Bradford Veterinary Clinic, Upper Valley Ambulance, Grafton County Nursing Home, and the Glencliff Home; as well as individually customized opportunities!

Carrie’s students have many, varied goals for the future, such as Registered Nursing programs, Vet Tech study, Sports Medicine training, Dental Assisting, and even exploring the field of Neurosurgery. Students have applied to various schools around New England. So far, they have received acceptance letters from the following schools: Northern Vermont University, New England College, Saint Anselm’s College, Norwich University, Castleton University, University of Maine, Colby Sawyer College, and Riviera College. Some students will be entering the workforce directly from high school with their LNA Certificates and experiences from the class.

If Carrie has one concern, it is that there is a prediction for a lack of health care professionals in our work force in the future. She knows that there are many very satisfying, well-paying careers in this field, and that her program will help students have the opportunity to really explore what possibilities might really excite them as individuals, and help satisfy a real need in our workforce.

No matter who you talk to at River Bend: instructors who were here when Carrie was a student at the Center; Teachers who have joined the Center since that time; or people who have started this year, along side Carrie, everyone is excited about her commitment to her students, to her program and the professionalism she brings every day! Welcome back, Carrie!

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